Pamela Madsen

Shameless Woman

Put Your Attention on Sexual Arousal, Not Orgasm

Consider the potential of sexual arousal.

Posted Dec 13, 2012

Everyone is talking orgasm. How to have a bigger one. How to get to that great big place of explosion. Just go to Amazon and put in that keyword and see the hundreds of books that promise to get you there. It's what so many people believe is the answer to getting what they want when it comes to pleasure. It's like the merit badge of sex. Proof that you're an erotic being.

Women are actively seeking how to turn on their erotic engines. But that powerhouse engine is not fueled by orgasm, it's fueled by arousal. Arousal, the overlooked state that can last all day or just minutes, is the building block for the orgasmic holy grail. If you can't access your arousal, chances are you're not having orgasms.

Sexual arousal can feel like sexual activation or even excitement. At its best, it's a full-body experience. It most commonly occurs first in our minds with thoughts of sexual desire and then is felt in our bodies. In a state of sexual arousal, most of us actually go through several different physiological changes as our body and mind begin to awaken.

When men are aroused they sometimes express that feeling in the form of a genital erection. When women are feeling arousal they may begin to feel their nipples and vulva engorge along with vaginal lubrication.

Sexual arousal is the pilot light that has several stages and may not lead to any actual sexual activity, beyond a mental arousal and the physiological changes that accompany it. Many women simply describe that feeling as radiating heat.

Sexual arousal is not a limited experience. It can be compared to turning on a shower and waiting for the water to reach the right temperature before you can get in. If the water doesn't get hot, the shower is not a pleasant experience. This feeling of sexual activation can blossom and affect how we experience the rest of our day.

The problem is that only the rare woman truly understands the power of her own arousal and how to access and maintain its power to enhance the parts of her life beyond the bedroom.

Consider the potential of sexual arousal to fuel self-transformation. This is what most women are really seeking when they see a therapist or buy a book on orgasm. They are wanting more, and somehow they know that it's there, in their own bodies. Perhaps they have seen it in other women, the French refer to it as “je ne sais quoi,” it's a woman who sparkles from within. 

Naomi Wolf has taken on the subject of the vagina-heart-brain circuit in her somewhat controversial treatise, “Vagina: A New Biography.” Though it has met wild adulation and bitter criticism, the message is compelling. When the circuit, a dopamine-oxytocin-opiate loop, is intact and uninterrupted, a woman is in a state of genuine well-being: capable, confident and sexy. She knows how to access arousal and run with it through her day.

But when that loop is disrupted, severed, shamed or abused, women numb out. They get depressed, anxious, have low libido and dare I say it, suffer “hysteria.” While Wolf’s analysis may be hotly contested by some, her understanding and defense of the genital-brain connection is one I’ve witnessed and experienced over and over again. What Ms. Wolf didn’t explain in any great detail, is how to recognize and complete that circuit so that we women are steadily charged, activated, open to and ready for life—and even have orgasms.

Being able to access sexual arousal seems to be the key. If we harness that hotbed of energy, we will be able to apply it and reach full potential. I don’t have to look any further than below my own belly-button to feel the profound shifts that connecting all the pieces of myself have made.

Stephen Snyder, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine who works as a sex and relationship therapist and psychiatrist in New York City, recently wrote a blog post on sexual arousal in which he states “When couples come to see me complaining of a sexual symptom, such as lack of sexual desire, or sexual boredom, or some other dysfunction—I always try to find out whether they’ve been getting aroused. Captivated. Self-absorbed. Infantile. I like to see a few giggles. If the arousal isn’t there, then where did it go?“

I believe that, in most cases, our arousal goes the way of other more “important” things. We simply don't seek a place of arousal except when we want to have partnered sex or an orgasm. We are not living turned on lives and, as a result, we are missing all of that power that we could be bringing into our daily existence. We need to access our own arousal and understand that it is not just there for the sex act. The other benefit of this learning experience is that once we have a handle on our arousal as a whole, we can access it more easily and bring it out in full force to ignite our partner's sexual passions.

As Naomi Wolf brings out in her book, women who are sexually activated are more creative and productive. Sexual arousal is not a limited experience, it is a full life experience. It's time to talk about more than orgasm and support women who find themselves disconnected from this essential and overlooked state of being.